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The Flight of a Dove Hardcover – August 12, 2004
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From School Library Journal
PreSchool-Grade 2–The creator of the enormously popular "Carl" series (Farrar) offers a longer picture book about a little girl with autism and the animals that change her life. Betsy lives in an isolated, don't-touch-me world. Slowly, she warms to the sound and flight of a dove in her classroom. Eventually, she begins to pet the classroom dog, then holds hands with the teacher, and finally speaks her first word, "Mommy!" Unfortunately, the writing is dull and plodding, with long narrative sentences, often in the passive voice: "Her mother's heart was heavy with discouragement and self-reproach." During the first half of the book, Betsy is depicted in washed-out grays and blacks and encased in shaded blocks, while her surroundings are painted with more fluid brush strokes and brighter colors. After her interaction with the dove, she is fully integrated into the colorful scenes. The beautiful artwork effectively highlights her sense of isolation and the happiness of the conclusion, but cannot save the heavy-handed story.–Linda Beck, Indian Valley Public Library, Telford, PA
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Gr. 3-5, younger for reading aloud. A bright, happy baby for the first year or so of her life, Betsy soon begins to withdraw from everything around her, eating very little food, avoiding touch, and making hissing or clicking sounds instead of words. Placed in a special preschool, Betsy's autistic condition continues until she startles a dove and responds to the bird's movement. Continued contact with the dove gradually breaks through Betsy's autism until she finally says her first word. Based on a true story, this fictionalized retelling reads like a case study. The lush watercolor art, however, brings the story to life, emphasizing Betsy's isolation and alienation as well as her mother's distress. When the dove finally breaks through to Betsy, the illustration captures the magic of the moment. Betsy's story will kindle a curiosity about autism and stimulate questions this story does not answer. It also demonstrates the miraculous therapeutic power of animals. Linda Perkins
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved
Top customer reviews
The Flight of a Dove follows a little girl known as Betsy to Green Meadows School where the head teacher is Mrs. Bouvier. There are various snipets on the pages showing Betsy isolated in her own world, usually sitting in a corner. Her mother Jeanne explains how Betsy does not eat solid food, makes hissing and clicking sounds while sitting still for hours.
Sometimes the illustrations show Betsy's eyes closed, her hands stiff by her side or clenched fists. Sometimes she is even barefooted. Her condition is mentioned as being extreme. Eventually over time Betsy would eat crackers while at Green Meadows School and play with blocks. Betsy made the same patterns with cards and when the teacher would turn away she would change the patterns.
The Flight of a Dove seemed to jump around a bit without any explanation of why Betsy preferred to do things a certain way, and how this is typical of children on the Autism Spectrum. Children with autism play the same way with their toys, lining items up or sorting in a particular sequence. One illustration has the teacher's one-year old daughter babbling beside Betsy as the baby tried to get closer. Finally someone removed the baby, but why was a teacher's baby at the school in the first place? This seemed a bit bizarre to me with no rhyme or reason.
The Flight of a Dove introduces the resident animals - a cat, two rabbits and a parrot. The animals were popular with the other children, but clearly Betsy was uncomfortable around these animals. Seasons changed with Betsy now being at the school for one year.
Up to this point nowhere in the book does the reader see this knowledge they supposedly have, there is no discussion of Doctors, visits with therapists or really understanding and patience. Instead they are pushing a baby into the girl's space and bringing animals around her when she is visible upset by the changes taking place.
Another day Betsy seems to be the only one in a classroom with a teacher and kissing the Dove. Then Betsy started allowing the other animals to close to her and she became involved with the other children in games that meant dancing and holding hands with other children and the teacher.
I am really not sure who the targeted audience is for and feel the book takes us back to the dark ages in keeping quiet about autism. The author has no experience with autism and makes it seem very easy to overcome and magical at that.
I personaly would not want classmates of either of my children to peruse through this book and think this is what my children are like. Readers with knowledge of autism will know that Betsy depicts traits of autism, yet it is not mentioned within the pages of the book.
The illustations showcase the isolation at first in the darker colors and stillness at the school. Yet once the dove enters the classroom the vibrant colors take over. Even the clothing on Betsy seems to be more appropriate as she enjoys the classroom more.
This is a book I would not purchase as the parent of two children on the Autism Spectrum. The cover of the book rubs me the wrong way, as well as how the girl says Mommy at the end. This book could really depress parents when they find that this is not the norm with children on the Autism Spectrum and create false hope.
Clearly not a book for families who just received a diagnosis of autism. Use caution when sharing with children who might have siblings and/or relatives on the Spectrum and wonder why their family member does not respond magically like Betsy did.
Betsy's behavior fits the classic profile of Infantile Autism. She "self-stims" by rocking, squinting and engaging in other singular motor activities; she does not speak nor interact with anybody. School personnel tell the girl's mother that they can make no promises and will do what they can to help Betsy adopt more socially appropriate behaviors and self help skills.
Brownie, a male beagle mix and a dove are the ones who catch Betsy's attention. She is first captivated by the dove and by watching this free bird, she begins exploring her surroundings and interacting in small increments. She initially ignored Brownie, but he was determined to get her to play with him. In time, she befriends the lovable hound.
The only thing I didn't like in this book was when the author described autism as "a cold gray autistic world." Not necessarily. That neurotypical misperception cost this book one star. For a person with autism, the world is not necessarily bleak. Autism is a neurobiological condition that impedes communication and social skills to varying degrees, based upon the individual.
By the book's end, Betsy finds her way of soaring. To the author's credit, Betsy is not miraculously cured.